The neglected dimension of community liveability : impact on social connectedness and active ageing in higher density accommodation

Vine, Desley (2012) The neglected dimension of community liveability : impact on social connectedness and active ageing in higher density accommodation. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


Purpose This thesis is about liveability, place and ageing in the high density urban landscape of Brisbane, Australia. As with other major developed cities around the globe, Brisbane has adopted policies to increase urban residential densities to meet the main liveability and sustainability aim of decreasing car dependence and therefore pollution, as well as to minimise the loss of greenfield areas and habitats to developers. This objective hinges on urban neighbourhoods/communities being liveable places, which residents do not have to leave for everyday living.

Community/neighbourhood liveability is an essential ingredient in healthy ageing in place and has a substantial impact upon the safety, independence and well-being of older adults. It is generally accepted that ageing in place is optimal for both older people and the state. The optimality of ageing in place generally assumes that there is a particular quality to environments or standard of liveability in which people successfully age in place. The aim of this thesis was to examine if there are particular environmental qualities or aspects of liveability that test optimality and to better understand the key liveability factors that contribute to successful ageing in place.

Method A strength of this thesis is that it draws on two separate studies to address the research question of what makes high density liveable for older people. In Chapter 3, the two methods are identified and differentiated as Method 1 (used in Paper 1) and Method 2 (used in Papers 2, 3, 4 and 5). Method 1 involved qualitative interviews with 24 inner city high density Brisbane residents. The major strength of this thesis is the innovative methodology outlined in the thesis as Method 2. Method 2 involved a case study approach employing qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative data was collected using semi-structured, in-depth interviews and time-use diaries completed by participants during the week of tracking. The quantitative data was gathered using Global Positioning Systems for tracking and Geographical Information Systems for mapping and analysis of participants’ activities. The combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis captured both participants’ subjective perceptions of their neighbourhoods and their patterns of movement. This enhanced understanding of how neighbourhoods and communities function and of the various liveability dimensions that contribute to active ageing and ageing in place for older people living in high density environments. Both studies’ participants were inner-city high density residents of Brisbane. The study based on Method 1 drew on a wider age demographic than the study based on Method 2.

Findings The five papers presented in this thesis by publication indicate a complex inter-relationship of the factors that make a place liveable. The first three papers identify what is comparable and different between the physical and social factors of high density communities/neighbourhoods. The last two papers explore relationships between social engagement and broader community variables such as infrastructure and the physical built environments that are risk or protective factors relevant to community liveability, active ageing and ageing in place in high density. The research highlights the importance of creating and/or maintaining a barrier-free environment and liveable community for ageing adults. Together, the papers promote liveability, social engagement and active ageing in high density neighbourhoods by identifying factors that constitute liveability and strategies that foster active ageing and ageing in place, social connections and well-being.

Recommendations There is a strong need to offer more support for active ageing and ageing in place. While the data analyses of this research provide insight into the lived experience of high density residents, further research is warranted. Further qualitative and quantitative research is needed to explore in more depth, the urban experience and opinions of older people living in urban environments. In particular, more empirical research and theory-building is needed in order to expand understanding of the particular environmental qualities that enable successful ageing in place in our cities and to guide efforts aimed at meeting this objective.

The results suggest that encouraging the presence of more inner city retail outlets, particularly services that are utilised frequently in people’s daily lives such as supermarkets, medical services and pharmacies, would potentially help ensure residents fully engage in their local community. The connectivity of streets, footpaths and their role in facilitating the reaching of destinations are well understood as an important dimension of liveability. To encourage uptake of sustainable transport, the built environment must provide easy, accessible connections between buildings, walkways, cycle paths and public transport nodes. Wider streets, given that they take more time to cross than narrow streets, tend to .compromise safety - especially for older people. Similarly, the width of footpaths, the level of buffering, the presence of trees, lighting, seating and design of and distance between pedestrian crossings significantly affects the pedestrian experience for older people and impacts upon their choice of transportation. High density neighbourhoods also require greater levels of street fixtures and furniture for everyday life to make places more useable and comfortable for regular use. The importance of making the public realm useful and habitable for older people cannot be over-emphasised.

Originality/value While older people are attracted to high density settings, there has been little empirical evidence linking liveability satisfaction with older people’s use of urban neighbourhoods. The current study examined the relationships between community/neighbourhood liveability, place and ageing to better understand the implications for those adults who age in place. The five papers presented in this thesis add to the understanding of what high density liveable age-friendly communities/ neighbourhoods are and what makes them so for older Australians.

Neighbourhood liveability for older people is about being able to age in place and remain active. Issues of ageing in Australia and other areas of the developed world will become more critical in the coming decades. Creating livable communities for all ages calls for partnerships across all levels of government agencies and among different sectors within communities. The increasing percentage of older people in the community will have increasing political influence and it will be a foolish government who ignores the needs of an older society.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 53388
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Buys, Elinor & Clark, Michele
Keywords: liveability, older people, ageing in place, active ageing, age-friendly, urban community, urban neighbourhoods, walkability, amenities, high density, quantitative methods, qualitative methods, global positioning systems (GPS), geographical information systems (GIS), transport
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
Past > Schools > School of Urban Development
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 29 Aug 2012 04:34
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 01:51

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